Valentine’s Day in 2013 was when Charity and Matt Craig went on their first date after Matt cheated on Charity during their marriage.
“It felt weird, but it was part of making things better,” Matt, 41, tells PEOPLE magazine. “We knew things couldn’t go back to how they were. And we didn’t want them to.”
The couple from Florida not only got through Matt’s affair in 2012 but say it made their relationship stronger after Charity decided to work on herself.
“I realized he wasn’t my enemy,” says Charity, who is now a marriage coach. “We’re both just people with deep wounds, and that’s where we started fixing things.”
Charity advises others in similar situations not to focus too much on the person their partner cheated with. She says it’s important to work on yourself and your relationship.
“Cheating doesn’t happen for no reason,” Charity says. “Once you fix yourself and your marriage, your partner won’t look for someone else.”
Dr. Talal H. Alsaleem, who wrote a book about infidelity, agrees that cheating usually happens because of personal issues or problems in the relationship, not because of the other person involved.
“Dealing with cheating is hard, but it’s the same for both men and women,” says Dr. Alsaleem.
He also warns against making your relationship problems public, as it can make things more complicated later on.
The Craigs found that friends and family pushing them to divorce didn’t help.
“They acted more hurt than I did,” says Charity. “People don’t like seeing how broken you are.”
But they both saw value in their long-lasting relationship. They met when Matt was 13 and Charity was in college, and they got married in 2004.
“We took a chance on each other,” says Matt.
Their marriage faced challenges, especially when Matt had a stressful job. He ended up having an affair with someone he knew from church.
“I didn’t feel like I could talk to Charity about what was going on at work,” Matt explains.
After leaving for six months, Matt and Charity decided to work on their marriage. Charity worked on herself with a therapist, and then they both went to therapy together.
“We talk about the affair differently now,” says Matt. “We’ve been married longer after it happened than before.”
Now, after 20 years of marriage, they’re in a good place.